Douglas Bader

Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born in St John’s Wood, London on 21 February 1910. He joined the RAF in 1928 and was commissioned in 1930. His skilful flying was recognised in 1931 when he was chosen to fly in front of 175,000 people at the Hendon air show.

Bader’s life was almost cut short on 14 December 1931 when he crashed his aircraft while attempting a low level slow roll. His life was saved at the Royal Berkshire Hospital but both of his legs were amputated. He was walking unaided on artificial legs only six months later and his determined character showed through when he declared, “I will never use a stick.”

Bader’s hopes of continuing to serve as an RAF officer were dashed when he was discharged on medical grounds in 1933. But he was recommissioned in November 1939, two months after the outbreak of the Second World War, following six years of working for the Asiatic Petroleum Company (later renamed Shell Petroleum).

During the war Bader saw action in the Battle of France, over Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain, before being shot down and captured near St Omer on 9 August 1941. As a prisoner of war Bader made several escape attempts but was only freed from Colditz in April 1945.

On 15 September 1945 Bader led the victory fly-past over London but retired from the RAF the following year. He rejoined Shell in July 1946 and was the managing director of Shell Aircraft Ltd from 1958 until his retirement in 1969.

Following his retirement Bader continued to be active with many public speaking engagements. He was knighted in 1976, for services to the public and the disabled, and was a member of the Civil Aviation Authority from 1972 to 1978. Bader died on 4 September 1982 at the age of 72.

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